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Disabling the Economy

“Huh?” I hear all two of my loyal readers say, under their breath lest they should disturb their imaginary friend from their shenaniganning.  What? It’s a word.

Well, when debating about the reduced level of UK economic productivity on Wednesday 6th December in the Treasury Select Committee meeting, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond(Eggs) stated (transcript here):

“It is almost certainly the case that by increasing participation in the workforce, including far higher levels of participation by marginal groups and very high levels of engagement in the workforce, for example of disabled people – something we should be extremely proud of – may have had an impact on overall productivity measurements.”Phillip Hammond & Theresa May

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas challenged this discriminatory statement and asked Theresa May, as Prime Minister and person with overall responsibility for her cabinet, to apologise and confirm the government does not believe disabled people are detrimental to the workforce as Mr Hammond’s comments imply, Ms May simply stated that:

“Actually the Chancellor did not express the views that she claims that he was expressing. This is a government that values the contribution disabled people make to our society and our economy and the workplace.”

I am pretty sure I am not the only person who nearly fell out of their seat in shock at Ms May(hem)’s blatant restructuring of the truth.  I’m trying to laugh at her about it.  I’m failing.

This government has an appalling record with regard to policy on disability issues.  Thousands of people living with myriad forms of disabling conditions have died as a result of the changes to the benefits system; 2,380 between 2011 and 2014 alone. ).  As for those who are in work, this figure has risen from 2.9million in 2013 to 3.5million in late 2016; from 44.2% to 49.5% of all disabled people of working age according to the Office of National Statistics.

But let’s take a closer look at what appears to be a positive statistic.  The ‘employed’ category includes anyone who has worked in paid employment for one hour or more in the week in which the statistical evidence was collected; yes, one hour.  Anyone on a zero hours contract, anyone working part-time, and anyone who is not counted as unemployed – given the wholesale rejigging of the benefits system, I’d be interested to see exactly how many disabled people that includes and how disproportionate it may be in comparison to able-bodied people in such types of employment, but sadly that figure does not seem to exist.

What’s more, those people with learning disabilities form markedly fewer employed people in this analysis.  7.1% (2011-12) of those registered with local authorities used to be in paid employment.  That figure is now just 5.8%.

Tory government policies are making chronic conditions actively worse by increasing stress levels, removing mobility aids (effectively removing disabled people from the job-seeking pool), cutting benefits available to help disabled people into work, changing the rules so disabled people don’t even count as ‘unemployed’ (although the Government has done that for myriad groupings, so the figures are properly massaged and misrepresentative – many have died since the Tories took power under David Cameron and he ran off to let Theresa May deal with the fall-out), and closing down the facilities that were set up to help disabled people get back into work.

It is not disabled people who are having a detrimental effect on the economy; the economy is having a detrimental effect on disabled people.

What exactly does ‘disabled’ mean anyway?  There are so many different conditions, syndromes, illnesses, chronic and acute, which have a life-limiting and/or shortening effect on those who are living with them.  It is a catch-all term which groups together a disparate number of people under an umbrella genus which has resulted in questions formed by officialdom which cannot actually be answered!  For example, when being interviewed for my free travel pass I am asked what I am like on my worst day – well, for which condition?  I have six chronic conditions, three of which come under the category ‘disabled’, one of which has a particular effect on my day-to-day life.  It is the osteoarthritis that has the most detrimental effect on my life at the moment.  I can work full-time, but the travel pass enables me to plan in advance knowing I will be able to get to work and home again if nothing else, but some days I am fine with walking and on my worst day I have had to hire a mobility scooter!

There are others whose conditions are far more life-limiting, those whose conditions are stable and unchanging, those whose conditions cause intellectual delay and/or restricted development, those who cannot work to a timetable because their bodies don’t work to a timetable… the differentiation goes on!

What disability really means is that society does not enable people who are in any way restricted to access all aspects of life which a ‘normal’ person can access.  The person with the condition is not disabled, they become disabled by the limitations of society.No Access

At the moment, places need to be adapted to be accessible; it is not even considered that homes or workplaces, or even benefit offices should be accessible to those with limitations.  This seems to me to be backwards thinking.  We ALL will end up with limitations in our lives, should we be lucky enough to live that long.  Everywhere should be automatically accessible, from inception.

A few ideas for en-abling society:

  • Instead of having to convert property to be accessible, make it accessible from the first architects drawing.
  • Pay a living (not minimum) wage to all.
  • Have firms offer flexi-time as a standard for all positions, enabling people with chronic pain for example to plan their working week.
  • Job-share as a standard for full-time positions should be standard also.
  • Have assessors for the new PIP scheme be trained and familiar with conditions, or if they are not, actually pay attention to and believe what the medical reports provided by the claimants say. GPs/Consultants don’t lie.
  • Publicise the Access To Work scheme a damn sight more than at the moment, to employers as well as potential employees.

Far from disabling the economy, it is society as a whole that chooses to disable people.  In doing so, surely the bare minimum that could be expected that those society disables should be supported?  We are all capable of far more than we are allowed to express; whether ‘disabled’ or ‘able-bodied’.  Why should it be acceptable that society should limit certain of us, especially as those are the very people who should receive the support so often denied.

For further reading on disability issues (activism and experience), try these blogs:
https://crippledscholar.com/
https://spoonshortagesue.wordpress.com/
http://www.francescamartinez.com/en/d1/Enter-Site-https://dpac.uk.net/category/disability-activism/
https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org

 

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There is No Excuse: Sexual Harassment & Assault

Unless you have been living under a rock and have had no human contact for the last six months, you cannot have failed to notice the huge number of rich and powerful men being confronted by women and men they have sexually harassed and/or assaulted in the past.

Yet still people are making excuses for it, and I intend to deal with them one by one, starting with the least shocking excuse perpetuated most recently by Morrissey (I’m not shocked he’d make an excuse, but that’s another story belonging to another person), head caterwauler, misery-guts and ego-in-charge for The Smiths (can you tell I was never a fan?):

  1. The victim is merely disappointed, as reported by German magazine Spiegel and as translated by AV Club – “Morrissey says that the whole thing has become “a play,” and that the definition of sexual harassment has become so broad that “every person on this planet is guilty.”It may be that every person on the planet IS guilty in action or inaction.  That does not mean those who perpetrate should not be brought to account.  The volume of accounts coming forward, and the myriad accused, is not a sign that it should not be taken seriously.  It is a sign that it is being taken seriously, at last.

    Nor is it an accusation made because the abuser did not follow through with whatever promises were made on the ‘casting couch’ (a term which has been widespread and understood for almost 100 years, and which has helped normalise the abuse suffered by thousands).  That is a revolting suggestion and an attempt to put abuse on par with sex work.  It ignores the issue of consent (more on that below).  Frankly, it’s something that tends to be said by people in power who are abuser.

  2.  Dirty Old Man (AKA that pervy Uncle we all ‘knew’ about and were warned to avoid or told to put up with at parties.
    That person who hugged too long, insisted on a ‘kiss on the lips’, who was a little be too ‘handsy’; I’m sure if we think back we will all be able to remember one.  Many women I’m sure can think of that teacher that they all avoided or had tactics in place to ensure no-one was left alone with.  We knew it was wrong then.  It is only now we can talk about it, we can complain about it, and we can be taken seriously.
  3. Lie detector tests prove it didn’t happen.At least one of those accused and reported about in the media has taken a lie detector test and passed, which he claims indicates he is innocent of all accusations.  That does not take into account how lie detectors work.  The clue is in the name; it detects lies.  If a person believes they are innocent of the accusations, then they will pass because they are telling the truth when they say they didn’t assault or harass anyone.  It’s what they believe.  There is a reason why lie detector tests are not admissible in court.
  4. They (the accusers) are just after what they can gain/want fame/money etc.Given the pillorying they are getting, along with a lot of support it is true, and the fact that many have found their careers already suppressed or destroyed, I fail to see how they are gaining anything in coming forward about the abuse they have suffered.  This is simply not true and is a repulsive way of silencing anyone who may want to come forward about their experiences.
  5. Being a love/sex addict means they are not responsible for their actions.This misunderstands the fundamental nature of an addiction (and indeed there is debate as to whether love/sex addiction is an actual condition).  Addiction is harmful to the addict.  The addict is not in control whereas the abuser very much is, that is the point of the power play.

For more reading about the misconceptions surrounding sexual harassment and assault, the University of Michigan has produced this very useful article.

I’m not going to list all those accused to date, as the list will grow longer as people finally accept that this behaviour was NEVER acceptable and the change is in the empowering of those victimised to speak up and know the support and belief is there.

As for the laws, here are few graphs to show how prevalent workplace harassment is, where it is explicitly prohibited and against whom, and what you can do (contact the police, Unions, Rape Crisis centres or your human resources department in your country/company as relevant – graph featured is according to the US-based EEOC and has good basic advice).

There is No Excuse-Harassment & Assault landscape

Seldom is there only one accuser, only one person victimised by a perpetrator.  Many of those who were victimised may not even realise it, so ingrained is our attitude towards gendered sexual expression.  It took me years to realise I had been harassed, and it is only since this came up do I realise that perhaps one incident I describe may be assault.  Amnesty UK published the results of their recent survey into online abuse and harassment, and it is sobering reading.  It’s all related and it all enables abusers and harassers to carry on, regardless.

The majority of us have always known this type of behaviour was wrong, as shown by the ‘excuses’ listed above.  The only thing that is changing is that the perpetrators are being confronted and are finally facing the long awaited consequences for their behaviour.  No longer are the excuses acceptable.

Everyone should be looking at their past behaviour because I am very sure whatever your gender there may be incidents that cause you pause for thought.  This will be the behaviour of men under the patriarchal assumption of entitlement to sexual activity towards the object of their attraction, and for women it will be their behaviour under the patriarchal assumption that men always want and/or are ready for sexual activity of whatever kind.

Informed, enthusiastic and updating consent is a fairly new concept for discussion and moves the No Means No campaign along further.  It recognises that those victimised may not be able to, nor capable of, saying no at that moment in time.  For many, the entitlement to say no was not one that may have been understood to exist!

Enthusiastic, Informed, Updating Consent:

  • Means having all the information one feels is necessary to oneself in order to give informed consent.  Ask questions and expect answers.
  • Means giving all the information one feels is necessary to oneself in order to receive informed consent. Expect questions and give answers.
  • Means honest open communication.
  • Means understanding that consent must be updated; a yes for one activity is not a yes for all.
  • Means knowing anyone under any form of duress (e.g. emotional or physically abusive relationship) directly related to the situation cannot give informed consent.
  • Means knowing anyone very intoxicated on whatever substance they cannot give informed consent, especially https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/zmzq48/addiction-is-not-an-excuse-for-sexual-assaultif they are unconscious.
  • Means knowing anyone who is very intoxicated may also not be able to understand whether they have received informed consent or not; be wary of this and don’t become an abuser/rapist. If you feel intoxicated or in any way unsure of your judgement, do not have sex or do not proceed with whatever activity requires consent.
  • Means never assuming consent has been given.
  • Means understanding yes may not mean yes and no definitely means no.
  • Means you are allowed to say no and you do not have to give reasons.
  • Means erring on the side of caution – if you are not 100% positive then you should assume consent has not been given.
  • Means respecting a person’s autonomy – no-one has a right to sex or to consent. It doesn’t matter how much you spent on them or what your expectations may be.  There is no such thing as entitlement.
Informed, enthusiastic consent.

Handy little chart – cut out and keep!

There is NO excuse for overstepping the line.  None.  If you are not sure if you may be pushing it, then you probably are and should stop.   If you see something and have even the slightest doubt about what is going on, step in.

There is no excuse.

Murder by Toxic Masculinity

For some strange reason *coughRELIGION/PATRIARCHY/CAPITALISMcough* characteristics which define personalities have long since been assigned to specific genders, and any behaviour which is not perceived to be fitting to the gender a person presents results in them being discriminated against, abused and harassed.

Feminism has long fought against patriarchy but is butting its head against that same glass ceiling which suppresses women when trying to show how it affects men detrimentally, to the point of killing them through suicide and all people through violence.  Strong words, you may think, so let’s see what exactly does define ‘masculinity’ and what effect that has.

masculinity-word-association.Feministing

word cloud care of feministing.com

Men* are supposed to be strong and preferably tall, be imposing or at the very least have a physical presence, unemotional (definitely no crying!), independent, the wage-earner and provider for their (nuclear) family, responsible decision-makers, be courageous, sexually virile if not promiscuous (but only with cisgender women), aggressive, active, logical, rational and disciplined, and to be self-reliant leaders.

There is also nothing within this list which should specifically pertain to a gender and the enactment of those characteristics to the exclusion of and discrimination against those who do not comply to the masculine norm restricts the roles and lives men can live.

Don’t get me wrong, patriarchy benefits men far more than it inhibits them.  Intersectional privilege mean that white able-bodied straight-presenting educated and wealthy men benefit far more than any other class of men.  However, patriarchal enforcement of masculine characteristics is dangerous and deadly.

Men who do not act in the way they are supposed, by seeking a job in a caring profession for example, or by shying away from violence or being victims of domestic or street violence themselves, or by being attracted to same gender partners, or by suffering from mental health problems, or in any way not being the strong, tough, independent ‘real man’, will suffer.  Male suicide is reaching epidemic proportions; it is now one of the top three killers of men. Worldwide, in 2015 men made up two thirds of the suicide figures.  The World Health Organisation has reported that the highest risk group for suicide is young men between 25 and 44, and is the second leading cause of death for all people aged between 15 and 29.  In the UK, men killed themselves at three times the rate of women.  In the Republic of Ireland, the rate is five times higher.

As for violent acts committed against others, one need only look at the reports coming in daily on terrorist acts, acts of domestic violence, and street violence, to see that men commit such crimes at a far higher rate than women; the figures are disproportionate to any claim that gender has nothing to do with it.  We cannot expect men to express aggressive go-getting behaviours and then be shocked when they act out that aggression in negative ways.

Between 1974 and 2016 there were 2,360 suicide terrorist attacks throughout the world committed by men, murdering 21,707 people.  In the same time period there were 221 attacks by women, murdering 2,286 people.

That is only just less ten times the rate of terrorist attack by men than by women.

The discussion about the tragedy toxic masculinity is wreaking on society is becoming increasingly open, and there are places to which men can now go and seek help with mental health issues online** and in person, but still we teach our male-presenting children to conform to masculine ideals.  A new-born boy is complimented with being ‘big’, ‘strong’, ‘handsome’ and ‘clever’; his parent’s ‘little man’.  His parents will be told their son will many girl’s hearts when he gets older.  I recommend you have a wander around the gendered clothing and toy aisles in supermarkets and clothing stores to see how differently and restrictively the genders are treated (that gender may not be a binary fact of life is not even conceived of!).  By the time the child is ready for school, he will already be exhibiting the gendered characteristics that were not showing when a baby.  They will have been socialised into him and he will already in a gender box (albeit a far bigger one than his sister).

This boxing of the male gender is killing them and it is killing us.  Characteristics are simply that, characteristics.  That we have decided they belong to a penis or a vagina, to an XY or an XX chromosome, is utterly ridiculous and would be laughable if it wasn’t so damaging.

We need to stop assigning men and women specific characteristics according to gender.  Characteristics are simply ways of being a person, and we are all a bundle of different characteristics.  There is no such thing as a characteristic which is only exhibited by one gender; that simply does not exist.

Toxic masculinity needs to end; it’s killing us all.

* as defined by presenting in society as of the male sex and inclusive of cisgender and transgender identities.

** UK – https://www.thecalmzone.net/

http://tasc-uk.org/male-suicide/

https://ex.movember.com/mens-health/mental-health

USA – the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255

http://www.spsamerica.org/considering-suicide

Worldwide

Phone app – HOW TO HELP PEOPLE http://www.suicidepreventionapp.com/about

In many countries – http://www.befrienders.org/

gender-fluidity

There is no gender characteristic binary except that which we impose.

Please Offer Me a Seat

Last night, for the first time in the four months almost to the day that I have been wearing my Raspberry* Badge (as I call it, having finally been trained by Sooterkin™ and Brother-Wife™ that it is not cockney rhyming slang when you actually use the word which rhymes as a shorthand), someone noticed it and stood up for me so I could sit in a seat on public transport.  It wasn’t a seat specifically for disabled/elderly/people-with-children, those were occupied already, but it was a seat which I needed.

Me with blue badge TFLLovelyYoungMan (as he shall henceforth be known) moved only when a mother with a child started to wake her child up to put on her lap so I could sit, and his conscience was stirred.  LYM apologised profusely, and said he’d noticed my badge and had been staring at it but had not twigged what it actually meant.  He may have blushed.  It was quite sweet!

I don’t blame LYM for not knowing what it meant, nor do I blame the myriad others who have clearly read the badge but ignored it completely; it’s entirely possible they had simply drifted into a reverie as I often do and the words did not penetrate their consciousness.  A walking stick has better luck in gaining the possessor access to the seats specifically put aside for disabled passengers in that it is more clearly visible, but I have watched the faces of those who have read the badge, looked at me and just looked away.  Not all of them are disabled too.

There has been no publicity with regard to the new badges made available to help those of us with invisible disabilities and/or chronic pain conditions and/or mobility issues (not always the same thing).  I chat with many fellow raspberries and inform them of the badge and how to apply for it, and not a single one of them has known about it prior to meeting me.

Seats taken up by bags is a very common sight on buses, and I need two buses each way on my commute to and from work so this is a definite and ongoing problem for me.  It seems people don’t realise that disabled people can work and therefore might need the space to sit in order to actually get to work.  Ironic in a political climate which is attacking disabled people to the point that they are unable to receive sufficient benefits to survive and are therefore forced to work (even if they are unable to do so or their conditions are unable to submit themselves to the strict timetabling work generally employs) or to die.

 

Bag on seat 1

Not a bag, but an oddly shaped child called M’Tarquinias.  Or something.

Both of the women in these pictures noticed me.  Both ignored me, after the one in the left picture gave me a dirty look at the sound of the click of my mobile phone as it took the picture (I feel no guilt, she is not identifiable from this image)!  Both women were capable of having their little bags on their laps and allowing a disabled person (or elderly person, or parent with child, as these seats are for them too) to sit on that seat.  These people I feel are just rude and thoughtless.  Many schoolchildren use ‘spare’ seats as bag rests too, but are quick to move the bag when asked, even if with a heavy sigh of hard-done-by-poor-me.  Neither of these women moved their bags.

Bag on seat 2

Also not a bag, but a dog that has had extensive plastic surgery.  Probably.

I had the badge on for both occasions, and as you can see from the top picture I wear it prominently where it is obvious and easy to read.  The same has happened many more times than I can count, when I was still unable to sit in the disabled seats.  On one of the aforementioned occasions I managed to get a seat further back by hauling my pain-filled carcass up the steps to climb into them, yet many people were still standing including others who were elderly, parents or visibly disabled.

Clearly, awareness of the existence of the badge is required, as is how to apply for it**.  Moreover though, it appears an acknowledgement and understanding of the variety of disabilities and the needs of those with them is also required before people will take notice of it.  On the plus side, due to the invisibility of my mobility issues the badge does mean that if I am sat in the seats for disabled people, I am not questioned or glared at or talked at/down/to in a derogatory manner for my mere presence in the area!

So, if you see anyone wearing this badge, and you are sitting down in the disabled area, or indeed if you are sat in any other area of the bus, please do offer them your seat.  They are not wearing the badge for a joke, I promise you, and they do really need to sit down!

*Raspberry Ripple = cripple.   Only disabled/differently-abled should use this, otherwise it may be considered discriminatory and negative. Unless you are friends with raspberries and are using it in a context which all those with you understand clearly to be an affectionate term with permitted usage by said raspberry!  It’s all about the context in which the term is used.

**Apply for the badge here: https://tfl.gov.uk/campaign/please-offer-me-a-seat

Captain Chronic Pain –v- The Spontaneity Demon

I have just had the most wonderful bank holiday weekend with my family, and am suffering for it. (TL:DR image to explain spoon theory and pain balancing at the end).

spinal pain imageI have osteoarthritis in my spine, neck, shoulders and hips, and therefore live with chronic pain.  It ebbs and flows, is unpredictable, and it is a constant work-in-progress to find a balance in life which enables me to live as close to ‘normal’ as possible.

My life has closed in; I work full-time but that means weekdays from Wednesday onwards are usually out for me for any kind of social activity unless I am prepared to deal with a LOT of pain for the next few days and possibly being unable to work at all.  An overarching fear of unemployment and lack of employability because of my myriad chronic conditions means full-time employment takes priority over everything else.

Due to unrelated CLL, another chronic condition, there is a cumulative fatigue which occurs which also has a knock-on effect on balancing of life events and ability to, on the worst case days, get out of bed let alone the house.

If I have plans for one weekend, I need to ensure that at least one day will be empty for recovery.  If both days have plans, then the weekends either side need to be empty.  If that isn’t possible, I need to be aware that days off work may be imminent.  I need to balance the amount of spoons I have!

I therefore need to prioritise my activities and that leads to decisions which I find very hard to make, as it means no spontaneity, no visiting friends for just chats and socialising, no pub visits, nothing that is not a ‘special’ event such as a wedding, a birthday, an anniversary etc.

It means trusting my friends to know that the fact I cannot travel to see them because the balance I need to find to live my life means it is a luxury my body cannot afford.  It means trusting that I am worth the trouble my chronic pain causes.

No More SpoonsIt means having faith in myself that I am worth the extra level of care I need to give to myself, and that I need my friends to put in me.  That is a really tough one to comprehend let alone live, but it is a constant work in progress as is the aforementioned balance.

Chronic conditions ebb and flow so the balance is in constant flux.  I may be fine one day, one week, one time in which I say yes to an invitation, but the next day, week or at time of the event to which I was invited, I may be incapable of physical action.  The most difficult thing for me and for many of my chronic condition friends is that we are unreliable by default.  Our bodies won’t let us be reliable.  That is a lot for anyone to deal with and plans which are made may have to be broken.

I adored my bank holiday weekend shenanigans, and I accept the price I pay for it.  The hardest thing is to accept my loved ones will have to pay the price too.

spoon theory-one day

One spoon, two spoons, three spoons, four. Five spoons, six spoons, damn I dropped them on the floor!

Step Up, White People, And Be Heard!

The horrific terrorist incident on Saturday 12th August 2017 in Charlottesville, USA in which one woman was murdered and at least 19 people injured by a white supremacist driving his car into them, has pushed the United States further into the media spotlight, highlighting the extremism and bigotry suffered by people of colour in the United States.

Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, stated 24 hours after the incident (and in his first comment on the horror): “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.  On many sides.”

Group hug!

We are a multiracial humanity, with different experiences, oppressions and privileges.

We in the United Kingdom should not get complacent.  It happens here too, more than those of us with white privilege could ever know, because it isn’t reported.  The same weekend that the horror in Charlottesville was unfolding, my local area was commemorating the 40 year anniversary of Battle of Lewisham in which antifascist demonstrators protested the National Front march through Lewisham, Deptford and New Cross in south east London, areas with a high non-white demographic.

Our media is regularly publishing articles demonising the Islamic community; on Tuesday 15th August 2017 The Sun (a tabloid ‘news’paper) published a column by Trevor Kavanagh specifically claiming the entirety of the Islamic community creates “one unspoken fear, gagged by political correctness, which links Britain and the rest of Europe. The common denominator, almost unsayable until last week’s furore over Pakistani sex gangs, is Islam…What will we do about The Muslim Problem then [upon the UK exiting the EU?]”

IPSO has received “a total of 150 complaints about the piece to which you refer, mostly under Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice” and an open letter signed by more than 100 cross-party MPs has called for action as a result of this column.

Racist attacks have been on the rise since the Brexit vote, but that merely means that those with racist views have felt more legitimised in those views and able to comfortably opine and act in public.  The Independent reported that racist hate crimes had risen by over 100% by February 2017 and these are just the cases that are recorded by the police.

On Wednesday 16th August 2017 and at the time or writing, our Prime Minister Theresa May has refused to condemn the words of Donald Trump defending the actions of the fascists at Charlottesville, although she does at least recognise there is no equivalence between the counter-protestors and the fascists.  Our leaders are failing us.

I note there are still many claiming there is violence on both sides; this may be true but think about who the instigators of this violence are.  Think of the oppression of hundreds of years which is meted out in words, in legislation, in social bigotry and in physical pain.  There may be violence, but who is attacking and who is defending, in this situation?  If you think there is an even ground upon which the violence is being enacted, then you do not understand the situation.

Now is the time we need to stand up and be counted.  All of us, white people especially.  Those who are oppressed should not have to carry the weight of the fight against such oppression themselves.  Racism is not isolated incidents, it is pervasive and built into our systems of governance and our social interactions.  To be clear, RACE IS NOT A CHARACTER TRAIT.  Any assumptions based on race, or religion, or any arbitrary characteristic, is bigotry.

Our white privilege affords us a safety net that people of colour, people of oppressed groups, do not have, especially if you are a male white person with no visible disabilities.  We need to use this privilege to step up where it is not safe for those who are oppressed to do so.  Don’t step over or on those who are oppressed, but do be the stepping stone upon which they can step to become that which oppression denies them.

If you are struggling for what you can do, try these for a start:

  • Acknowledge your white privilege and open your eyes to see how it is enacted every day. This will be hard at first, but once you start, it will, sadly, get easier.
  • If a colleague, friend or family member makes a racist joke – don’t let it slide. Ask them what it is they find funny about it, or pretend you don’t understand it and get them to explain the meaning.  Then simply say you don’t find racism funny.  No-one should get a pass on being racist.
  • If you witness a racist incident, don’t be a passive onlooker. Support the person being abused and confront the racist person.  Do it on your own volition, not on behalf of the person being abused.  Redirect the ire; be the change you want to see.
  • Sign petitions, go on marches, be public and loud in your opposition to racism at every opportunity. You may get tired of it, but people suffering racist oppression don’t get a day off so nor should we.
  • If someone tells you of a racist incident they suffered, don’t demand proof, offer empathy.
  • Speak openly with your children about oppression and make an effort to open them up to the history and achievements of people of colour. Watch movies, TV programmes and books with people of colour as protagonists.  Representation matters to everyone.
  • Don’t expect a person of colour to educate you. Do it yourself.  Google, go to a library, ask for recommendations from friends if you feel they will be receptive.
  • If someone calls you out on something you have said, stop and listen and take time to think about what they are saying. White privilege blinds us; don’t get upset by someone who is trying to help you to see.  If it is in an angry tone, just put yourself in the shoes of the person calling out – how many racist comments or incidents would it take to be aimed at you before you got angry at every one? They are doing you a favour in trying to help you to see, don’t tone police, just listen.
  • You might suffer from bigotry for other reasons, such as sexuality, ability or gender. That doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from racism.  Privileges and oppressions intersect.  Don’t be the person who says “what white privilege? I’m *insert intersecting identity here*, I’m not privileged”.  It’s not a competition, it’s not an either/or situation.
  • Don’t claim to be ‘colour-blind’ or ‘not to see race’; that simply denies and silences the experiences of people of colour and denies your white privilege which you benefit from without having a choice in the matter. It’s offensive, so don’t do it.  That’s something I was called out on long ago, and I am very grateful for it.

As your practice in fighting white privilege grows, you will find more that you can do.

This is not a freedom of speech issue like the fascists are claiming it to be.  These same fascists turned up to their protest against the expressed will of the residents of Charlottesville, and many of whom turned up carrying guns, shields, mace, pepper spray and clubs, and in combat gear.

This is an issue about freedom from racism, hate, bigotry and violence, whether by word or deed.  Donald Trump is wrong; the violence was and is perpetrated by the fascists.

Mandela quote re racism is taughtMaybe one day, there will no longer be an “us and them”.  That’s my hope; that’s my dream.  Make it yours, too, and act.  To be passive is to be complicit; don’t be that person.  Be the answer, not the question.

More on the events in Charlottesville:

Witness and member of the multi-faith worship congregation threatened by white supremacists, the Rev Traci Blackman: http://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/trump-is-lying-about-charlottesville-says-witness-1025515075632

Vice News Tonight: The City Council allowed the march against the wishes of the residents of Charlottesville.  What the terror looked like, interviews with fascists attempting to justify their separatism and supremacist views.  CONTENT WARNING for aftermath of the car terror incident: https://www.facebook.com/VICE/videos/852427574917194/

Fascist terrorist actions in the US in 2017 so far (incomplete as microagressions and ‘everyday racism’ is too numerous to count): http://fozmeadows.tumblr.com/post/164164615366/you-antifa-guys-are-actually-more-hateful-and

Lets Talk Periods!

There are a lot of euphemisms for periods – on the blob, Aunt Flo, time of the month, the builders/painters are in, on the rag, surfing the crimson wave, and so on.  A survey by Clue with International Women’s Health Coalition in 2015 found over 5,000 different ways of stating you are having a period in over 190 countries.  No wonder that conversations about menstruation are seldom had if we can’t even bring ourselves to name it!

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We got The Talk™ in biology classes at school around age 12/13 but it was just the mechanics – egg expelled from ovary, travels down fallopian tube, and if it is not fertilised it implants in womb (uterus) lining which has thickened to accept the egg, and if no fertilisation has occurred then then egg and lining is shed, and it is this which is known as a period.  We were told you’ll lose about 4 and 12 teaspoonsful of blood on average (could be more, could be less).

As a result of minimal information given in an embarrassed lecture at which there was no opportunity to ask questions, I remember unfortunate incidences of bleeding through pads onto underwear, of being in agony (I occasionally had to take a day off school) but being unable to say why to the teacher, of random bursting into tears for no apparent reason and not knowing why, of never really knowing when I might start, and of other bodily changes occurring which none of us had any way of knowing was normal or not.  And that was just me!

So here is what might or might not happen once you start menstruating.  Bear in mind you might get all, some or none at all of the following, and at varying times in your life:

1.  You may find you fart a lot more than you usually do.  I am pretty sure no-one will have told you that!  However, as the uterus, cervix and vagina are all situated very closely to the bowel system, it should not surprise you to know it can have a knock-on effect.

2.  Diarrhoea is quite common during your period, as it’s opposite twin, constipation. See above for why!

3.  Cramps can be mild but they can also hurt a lot.  They are so common they even got a medical name – dysmenorrhoea. A hot water bottle relaxes the muscles and will ease the pain.  Muscle relaxant painkillers like ibuprofen can also help.

4.  Emotions may become heightened so it is perfectly normal to feel down and/or up, angry or sad or more loving. Everyone is different. 

5.  Aches and pains in your nipples and breasts, limbs, neck, all over your back, hips, and feeling more tired, weaker and being clumsier than at other times.  Sometimes you may vomit or feel nauseous.

6.  You might feel yourself ovulate (expel the egg from the ovary).  I didn’t at first, but have been able to for some time; it feels like a strong stabbing in either my right or left side on the front, then a cramping, then done.

7.  You may get cravings for chocolate, cake, any sweet things, or savoury foods such as crisps, either when ovulating or menstruating, or both, and this can last some time.

8.   Quite a lot of people feel a lot more sexual at this time, and sex during a period is not dirty, or icky, but extra exchange of fluid does put you at a higher risk of an STD and you can still get pregnant, so even though you are not at your most fertile, it is vital barrier contraception is used even during your period.  For some people, having an orgasm helps enormously with period cramping and pain.  Some people feel quite the opposite, and do not want to be touched during this time.  Others, it doesn’t affect one way or the other.

Remember, a lower risk does not mean no risk, and it only takes one sperm to penetrate the egg, so contraception is a must unless you are actually trying to have a baby!

9.  You may bloat around your middle, retaining water and finding your clothes are tighter, and your breasts may increase in size.

10.  You might get bad headaches, migraine or even cluster migraine.  This is the effect of hormonal changes in the body and is normal, although very painful.

11.  You may have an increase in itchiness around your vagina and in it before you start your period.  This is a change in the natural balance PH level and will die down when your period ends.

12. Your period can last from 2 to 10 days each time and you may even have a break during the bleed time, and the heaviness of your flow may vary from month to month.  If you feel more tired during this time it may be through a loss of iron in the blood causing anaemia.  If it is a regular thing, do talk to your GP to check it out – you might need iron supplements or to increase your intake of iron giving foods like red meats or dark green veg during your period (for more advice, click here) .

13.  A cycle is anything from 21 to 40 days – anything within this is normal and some have longer regular cycles.  You may have noticed by now, ‘normal’ has a very broad definition!

14.  The average age to first start menstruating (which is called the ‘menarche’) is between 10 and 14 years old based on current medical data.  However, earlier or later is not unheard of.  If your child starts before the age of 8, this is unusual and you should go to your GP to check for any problems as early onset puberty can indicate growth hormone problems.  Likewise if you or your child have not shown any signs of starting their period soon, such as budding breasts and/or the appearance underarm hair or pubic hair, or an increase in sweating and possibly development of body odour, by the age of 16 it might be worth getting checked out.  Remember though, when you first start menstruating and when you begin to stop, your periods will be erratic.

15.  There are a lot of products that you can use during your period to prevent blood on your underwear – sanitary towels and tampons have different strengths/sizes for different flows.  Moon/diva/menstrual cups are designed to be inserted into your vagina to catch the blood, and need to be emptied and cleaned before reinsertion, in the same way sanitary products need to be changed regularly.  You can buy recyclable sanitary towels which are washed and reused.  Use what suits you best, and know this may change over time as your body changes and gets older.

It is VERY important to change tampons regularly and never leave one it for more than 8 hours (one sleep) because this can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome, which can in very rare circumstances be fatal.  It’s rare, but does happen.  A child friendly explanation is in the Resources section at the end of this blog as well as here.

16.   If you have an eating disorder or condition this can stop periods and have devastating long term effects on your body quite apart from lack of periods and infertility.  Please seek help from your parent/teacher/friends/caregiver and/or medical professional, if you have not already.

17. You can take the pill which you may be prescribed by a medical professional to deal with any, some or all of the problems you suffer with your period – it’s not always prescribed for contraception.  The pill works by fooling your body into thinking it is pregnant, and there are several types of pill so you may try more than one before finding the best that suits you.  You can also take the pill non-stop (do take advice first though) to prevent the 28-day cycle of bleeding.

18. Discharges are very common; you may have a brownish discharge close to the time of your period, or you may have a clear, slightly creamy/yellowish viscous discharge at odd times.  This is all perfectly normal.  There is a natural, iron-y smell to periods so if anyone tells you it’s not normal to have a slight odour, they are wrong.  Any strong smell which persists should be checked out for signs of vaginal infection.  If you have pain when peeing or itchiness around the vagina which persists for a few weeks, you may have a urine infection such as cystitis or vaginal infection such as bacterial vaginosis or thrush.  All normal, not signs of sexual activity (although vaginal infections can be passed between partners) and you should get checked out by your GP as they are common and easy to treat.

19. As you get older, your cycle may change.  What was normal for you as a teenager will change into what is normal for a young adult will change into what is normal for a 25-45 year old adult will change into what is normal for a menopausal (usually but not always 50+) adult, and each will be normal for you and not necessarily anyone let alone everyone else!  Unfortunately this may mean the acne or pimples you suffered from as a teenager may come back, or if you have them now, they may go away.  Hormones are playful little things!

20.  A change in your regular pattern of periods (if you have one) should be checked out by your GP as it can have other implications for your health. Click on links within each for more information.  For example:

  • Amenorrhoea is defined medically as a lack of menstruation for a three-month or longer period in a person who had prior to that had a ‘normal’ or ‘regular’ cycle.
  • Oligomenorrhoea is when you have few light periods – this is quite common in athletes and those who do a lot of physical exercise. It is also linked to PCOS and can indicate perimenopause (early signs of menopause and the stopping of periods completely).  It is simply a medical term and unless it is accompanied by other changes or as part of another diagnosis, is not something to worry about.
  • Adenomyosis.  This is an increase in blood flow and/or length of period and/or pain experienced, and such changes persisting for several months.  It would be easy to dismiss as possibly entering perimenopause, but if you are still in your 30s or 40s this should be checked out by your GP.  It might be early menopause but it might not, and simple blood tests can sort out which.
  • Clotting – one or two clots is fine as this is the egg being shed. However, more than that should be checked out by your GP.
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – I was diagnosed with this after a blood test showed elevated levels of androgens in my system, after my periods had gone from a regular 36-day cycle to very erratic, to by the time. There are treatments if you choose to take them; it can cause fertility problems, weight gain and hirsuteness (hairiness).
  • Endometriosis – this is when the lining of your womb sticks to other parts of your body, and causes extremely horrible period pains outside your womb, where the blood being flushed from the lining has nowhere to go.
  • Fibroids are non-cancerous growths in the womb which can make periods very painful and heavy. They can be removed with surgery.

There are a lot of medical terms related to periods but this does not mean it is anything to worry about, or is not normal, or indicates in any way that you must stop enjoying your life in the way you already do.  If you are at all worried do see your GP or Practice Nurse, or even chat to your pharmacist, as they will be able to put your mind at rest.

21. It is also very normal not to experience any of the above.  Some people just bleed for a few days in a regular cycle, and nothing else happens.  I’m starting to think we need a new word for normal when discussing periods!

If anyone tells you that you can’t do something because you are on your period, or assumes that your reaction to something is because you are hormonal, or dismisses you in any way because of your period, remind them that non-menstrual people have regular hormonal cycles too.  24-hour or more, irregular cycles with moods rising up and down.  Just because it is not shown by bleeding every so often does not mean it is not there!

Resources:

 

Thanks to the following for their comments, information, wise words and laughs in writing this blog:
Bella, Kate, Michelle, Mandy, Jessie, Griselda, Alix, Naomi B, Genevieve, Jules, Gill, Sue, Mikey, Elaine, Janice, Lois, Emily, Anya, Lynne, Emma J, Emma B, Rachel, Kirsty, Cheryl, Paula, Elaine, Anna, Riven, Samantha, Alex, Lauren, Awanthi, Sally, Guinevere, Melissa, Naomi M, Carol, Lee, Lucy, Dawn, Gaynor.

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Sticks and Stones May Break Bones, But Words Oppress Far Longer

Women’s Views on News recently shared an article on Facebook from the site Fair Play For Women (“FPFW”) which was a litany of transphobic language and unsubstantiated opinion.  Having had a research on FPFW it is clear this article is representative of the views of the site.  WVON stated when posting the article: “to be clear : We fully support the rights of trans people to safety, dignity and equal rights, but not at the expense of women and girls.”

The “safety, dignity and equal rights of trans people” were explicitly denied throughout the article. The language of the shared post is explicitly transphobic and some people may find the following quotes triggering:

  • “Hypnotised by the trans community’s charm & sparkle”
  • “I’m guessing they’ve [those debating the updating of the Gender Recognition Act 2004] been told a lot of sob stories by minor trans celebs like Kellie Maloney and India Willoughby, felt terribly sorry for them (the poor girls can’t find a man!) and haven’t bothered to check reality.”
  • “In fact, a person only has to live as a woman for a period of time – whatever that means; presumably it involves swishy hair and nail varnish, those distinctive traits of female biology – and get a doctor to agree they’ve changed gender.”
  • “did you notice where transition means you get all your identification documents altered to suit your new name? Yep, it’s a charter for criminals and anyone else seeking to disappear.” “It rarely happens at present due to the “living as” requirement, but of course Instant Magic Sex Change™ will offer endless glorious opportunities for everyone wishing to escape their past – or even adopt a temporary identity for the duration of certain activity”
  • “they will have more rights than females in female-only places.”
  • “A woman calling out a male-born ‘woman’ is guilty of discrimination and verbal assault – but the owner of a ‘female’ cock & balls commits no crime by showing them off in the women’s shower room. Great news for flashers and voyeurs.”
  • “Men are already winning women’s sports. Watch this explode. You may as well tell girls it’s all about trying your best, because they won’t be able to win.”
  • “Sex discrimination at work? Forget it. Why would they promote you, a female who has periods and might get pregnant, over a male-born woman without all that awkward biology?
  • Sexual harassment? You’ve got to be kidding! All the male-born women love it! Stop complaining.”
  • “Be raped by a woman. Yes, suddenly rapists can be women and females can be as criminally violent as males.”

There is repeated use of “male-born woman” in reference to transgender women (as per usual in these articles, transgender men are conveniently forgotten or erased from the argument), which is Transphobic Language No-No’s 101.  The advised and respectful term is ‘assigned male at birth’ when referring to transgender women and ‘assigned female at birth’ when referring to transgender men, or the best option, not using either term at all.

Note the use of “charm & sparkle” being hypnotic; this reduces any point put forward by a transgender person to being that which is based on removing the ability of person with whom they are talking to comprehend and agree, because hypnosis is a process which implants suggestion into the subconscious and removes conscious action in coming to an opinion.  Basically, it voids any agreement on the basis that it is not ‘real’ agreement.

Charm and sparkle is not a compliment, it is a derogatory term reducing all transgender activists and non-activists to overtly feminine caricatures.

The second point makes clear where the author is coming from, and utilising sexist presumption without qualifying how the author is defining the ‘reality’ to be checked.

A transgender person MUST live openly in representation of the gender they know they are for a minimum of two years before accessing medical transitional treatment.  That is the only way of transitioning via hormonal therapy and/or surgery, if that is the pathway they wish to choose.  There is an unsavoury whiff of sexism in the comment with regard to swishy hair and nail varnish being seen as traits of female biology, and this point I agree with.  However, it is not those who are transgender who impose these ideals, it is those they apply to for treatment who impose these ideals.

As for pointing out that criminals could use what the author views as “Instant Magic Sex Change”, criminals already change their identity and whilst it is very presumptive, unproven and basically an invalid unverifiable supposition on the part of the author, surely it would be easier to stick to the gender identity one was assigned at birth when changing one’s identity to hide one’s criminal activity?

To assert that transgender women will have more rights than ‘females in female-only places’ is another unproven and unverifiable supposition.  Statistically speaking transgender women face more prejudice, more violence, and are murdered at a far higher rate than cisgender women.

These ‘rights’ which the author speaks of do not exist, have never existed, and will not exist.  The violence and discrimination is proven.

The following graph is an edited version of Table 2 in the UK Government statistics on hate crimes document “Hate Crime England & Wales 2015-2016”:

Table 2: Hate crimes recorded by the police, by monitored strand1,2, 2011/12 to 2015/16
           
Numbers and percentages         England and Wales, recorded crime
Hate crime strand 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 % change 2014/15 to 2015/16
   
Transgender  313  364  559  607  858 41
   
Source: Police recorded crime, Home Office
1. Hate crimes are taken to mean any crime where the perpetrator’s hostility or prejudice against an identifiable group of people is a factor in determining who is victimised. For the agreed definition of hate crime see: http://www.report-it.org.uk
2. Data were collected from 44 police forces in England and Wales and cover notifiable offences only (see the User Guide for more information).

To incite cisgender women’s fears of rape, sexual assault and sex discrimination on the basis that transgender women will not suffer the same, and indeed that cisgender men may take advantage and commit crimes and discriminate against cisgender women in favour of transgender women is unsubstantiated bullshit, and fear-mongering at its worst.

Let’s not forget this article is about the debating of amendments which may be applied to the Gender Recognition Act 2004.  No decisions, no policy, no guidelines for amendment have been made.

The article is littered with supposition, and devoid of fact.  It is all opinion.  Now, this is fine, and I am firmly in favour of opinion being expressed, but that means those who disseminate such opinions have a responsibility towards their readership, and a site which professes to be for equality, as Women’s Views on News does (FPFW does not, it is explicitly transphobic), is shocking.  It is clear that WVON are for equality but only for cisgender women and cisgender girls; there is a cut-off point at which cisgender identifying people receive priority over their transgender sisters.  The transgender community will be thrown under the bus.

There should not be a dichotomy of thinking here, but the refusal to accept and understand (as opposed to tolerate) the existence of transgender people let alone the right to a safe life means one is set up.  It’s not an either/or situation, unless you hold bigoted views about the transgender community, and at that point, you lose credibility as an equality activist. If you are happy to divide and oppress one part of the intersectionally oppressed community, I cannot trust that you will not divide and oppress others.

I am pleased to note that the petition on 38 Degrees has been taken down and removed as a violation of the terms and conditions of the non-partisan site.

It’s a shame that Women’s Views on News has not seen fit to remove such a transphobic article from their site too.

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Unnatural Appetites

Since I was 11 years old I have been on a medication called sodium valproate.  For the first few years I came off the medication twice but had further seizures, so at the age of 17 I was put on them permanently to control the tonic-clonic/grand mal (depending on your age when I was diagnosed, the medical term changed) seizures I suffered having been diagnosed with epilepsy.

The medication has several side effects, none of which were explained to my parents or myself at diagnosis.  I did not find out about them until I asked at 18 years old, having done a bit of research myself.  It was not until my first smear test that I was told getting pregnant would be a big no-no due to severe foetal abnormalities, and should only be attempted under the guidance of medical professionals.  How lucky I have never wanted children then

Me & Lynne aged approx 12

Me on the left aged 12, the age of diagnosis

The biggest and most impactful side effect is that of the unnatural appetite.  This is something I have struggled with and will continue to struggle with for the rest of my (hopefully long and delightfully weird) life.

I have an identical twin sister.  Until the point of medication, she and I weighed the same.  After diagnosis and medication, I put on at least 14 pounds and since that time was “the Fat Twin”™.  It’s a thing with twins by the way.  You always get “the Clever One”, “the Pretty One”, “the Good One”, “the Weird One” or some such ridiculous definition which limits and boxes you even though it is simply meant to differentiate you for the benefit of people who cannot be bothered to learn your names.

Me aged 13 ish

Aged 13 or 14.

I could see what I SHOULD look like, given the fact we ate pretty the same things and were the same height, and did the same activities.  We did not, and I continued to be bigger as we got older.  I had an Unnatural Appetite.

To help explain what that means, imagine you are really hungry.  I don’t mean just in need of a snack to raise your energy levels, or possibly thirsty as that feels the same as hunger.  I mean a gnawing pain in the stomach which causes you to wake in the middle of the night, to want to or actually to cry, to be unable to rest and to know, without a doubt, that unless you eat something you will not sleep/concentrate/be able to do anything.  Now imagine never knowing if your hunger is because your body needs sustenance or because your medication is telling you lies.

I have burst into desperate tears whilst at work behind the Student Union Bar, I have woken in the middle of the night more times than I can remember and have been unable to sleep without eating a bowl of cereal (which my husband can attest to), I have felt faint (not fun when you have epilepsy as you immediately think you may start seizing), I have become snappy and desperate, and the mistrust of my body and the messages it sends will always have a detrimental impact on me.

All of this I could cope with, all of it, if it weren’t for the fact I live in a society where women are not supposed to have appetites let alone unnatural ones.  I have had abuse hurled at me from passing cars, I have been teased since I was 12, by adults and children, I have had it made very clear to me that I am considered ugly by societal standards, and I call BULLSHIT!

Me aged 38 at the slimmest I've ever been as an adult

Aged 38, and the slimmest I have ever been since the age of 21.

Because part of my weight is due to medication side effects, I will never be the model of societal beauty.  The pressure and the cruelty most certainly impacted my eventual diagnosis of clinical depression (which I still and always will suffer from, and I am currently on a very low dose of medication for this too).

That should not matter though.  It is entirely irrelevant if there is a reason for a woman’s (cisgender or transgender, the societal pressures are the same as they apply to the perceived gender) size, it is no-one’s business but their own and it is a ridiculous, cruel and sexist standard to hold anyone to, let alone to oppress and suppress an entire gender identity because of it.

Consider the knock-on effect. As a result of the poor self-image I have, I may model poor self-image to others although I try extremely hard not to.  I don’t judge anyone in the way I am judged because I know how it feels, but these things are very deeply ingrained.  I am sure I have treated past partners badly, ready to disbelieve their attraction to me and run at the first hint of any trouble or assume the worst at all times.

No-one exists in a vacuum, untouched and unheard, nor unhearing.  The abuse I have received and that I perceive against people of all colours, all gender identities, all disabilities, all sexualities, has an effect as well.  It is inculcated societal bullying, behaviour we do not accept on the school playground, and damn well should not accept as adults and yet we do.  Myriad internet posts refer to the fatness of celebrities, female politicians are harangued for their looks instead of their policies (and no, if a man is harangued for his looks it is not seen as affecting his ability to do his job whereas it does for a woman, so it is NOT the same thing).

SFW44

This picture is of me, now, cosplaying Willow Rosenberg at the SFW8 convention last February.  I may never be comfortable in my own skin, but I am going to strive to ensure that no-one else feels the same way as me.

I have an unnatural appetite due to medication, and I have a large body due to disability, medication and a joy of sweet foods.  I never was a ‘pretty young thing’ nor will I ever be a pretty old thing.  But as long as I get to be an old thing I’m going to do my absolute best to be happy about it, even if it is despite myself.

So, don’t fat-shame or body-shame, all it does is show your ignorance, prejudice and bigotry.  I’d rather have a fat body than be a fathead, and so should you.

Are you Happy for Me to Die, Mrs May?

nhs-nye-bevan

There is only one political issue that has me absolutely terrified about my future and my life, literally, and it is the debate over the survival of the NHS.

The NHS IS in crisis, despite what the current government repeat so often that it seems they are trying to convince themselves, not us (the fact that 70 MPs have financial interests in private healthcare companies in no way reflects any sort of a bias in parliamentary attitudes and policy creation and implementation, of course).

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross stated on 6th January of this years that his organisation is “responding to the humanitarian crisis in our hospital and ambulance services across the country. We have been called in to support the NHS and help get people home from hospital and free up much needed beds.”

I know this election is about far more than the NHS, but each issue does not stand alone and although this issue is the one that could kill me if the Conservatives win, there is so much more at stake than that.

Immigration is an issue which is intrinsically tied into the survival of the NHS.  One in seven immigrants in this country is employed by the NHS many on wages so low that under Conservative proposals they will no longer be able to be employed by the NHS and will face deportation.  There are not sufficient numbers of qualified doctors to replace those we may lose, let alone replace the support staff who will be the ones facing deportation due to lack of high enough wages to meet Conservative requirements.  In the Conservative’s own words (pages 54 and 55 of the Conservative Manifesto – bold highlight my own):

Controlling immigration Britain is an open economy and a welcoming society and we will always ensure that our British businesses can recruit the brightest and best from around the world and Britain’s world-class universities can attract international students. We also believe that immigration should be controlled and reduced, because when immigration is too fast and too high, it is difficult to build a cohesive society.

 Thanks to Conservatives in government, there is now more control in the system. The nature of the immigration we have – more skilled workers and university students, less abuse and fewer unskilled migrants – better suits the national interest. But with annual net migration standing at 273,000, immigration to Britain is still too high. It is our objective to reduce immigration to sustainable levels, by which we mean annual net migration in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands we have seen over the last two decades.

We will, therefore, continue to bear down on immigration from outside the European Union. We will increase the earnings thresholds for people wishing to sponsor migrants for family visas. We will toughen the visa requirements for students, to make sure that we maintain high standards. We will expect students to leave the country at the end of their course, unless they meet new, higher requirements that allow them to work in Britain after their studies have concluded. Overseas students will remain in the immigration 55 statistics – in line with international definitions – and within scope of the government’s policy to reduce annual net migration.

Leaving the European Union means, for the first time in decades, that we will be able to control immigration from the European Union too. We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs”.

National Debt to 2016 - ONS

Source – the Office of National Statistics

The austerity cuts that the Conservatives have presided over since 2010, first in coalition with the Liberal Democrats and then in 2015 when they were elected with a majority, have not succeeded.  The country is in far more debt that before 2010.

As a result of this disabled people, a community of which I am proud to be a member, and fortunate enough in my disability to be able to work full-time and not face the issues many of my friends are facing, are dying in their hundreds if not thousands, and yet you continue to deny any link, even when the link is specifically stated in a suicide note, such instances which there has been more than one public report.  Have a google, Mrs May, and you will soon see the truth, if you have the wit and care to see it.  If you think the decimation of the NHS has nothing to do with this you know nothing about disability, Mrs May.

Look at my face, look at my humanity.  Look at me, Mrs May, if you need a face to put to the terror you are inflicting.  You will kill me, Mrs May, with your non-costed and ill-thought out policies.  You are killing many already, Mrs May.  I hope you can live with that, if you continue on the path to privatisation.

You are not strong and stable, Mrs May.  You are stubborn and blindly privileged, and you are killing people.  People are terrified, and it is you causing that terror.  I’m sure there is a noun for a person who causes such fear.  What would that be, Mrs May?  Can you think of the word?  Because that is what you and your Conservative party are, to me.